Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Jun 4th 2009 11:00AM by Benjy Eisen
Leonard Cohen's anthemic and career-defining song 'Hallelujah' has a rather interesting history. We'll get to that. But it wasn't always that way. In fact, 'Hallelujah' was often one of the more overlooked songs in Cohen's canon until troubadour Jeff Buckley included it on his 1994 album 'Grace.' The song is now frequently licensed for film and television although rarely as sung by Cohen. By this point, 'Hallelujah' has been covered by everyone from Bob Dylan to KD Lang, but Jeff Buckley's version has become the gold standard and is frequently mistaken for the original recording itself. In celebration of the release of the new Buckley release, 'Grace Around the World,' we pit five different versions of 'Hallelujah' against one another. You decide the victor.
Jeff Buckley, 'Hallelujah'
Three years before Buckley hijacked 'Hallelujah,' John Cale recorded his take on it for the 1991 Leonard Cohen tribute album 'I'm Your Fan.' Cale's reworking of the song arguably became the blueprint for Buckley's arrangement, which then, in turn, became so definitive of later derivatives.
John Cale, 'Hallelujah'
Although Jeff Buckley's 'Hallelujah' is like a cover version of a cover version, it nonetheless has become the song's barometer. Perhaps nothing will ever quite replicate the gravity of Cohen's authentic original, but if artists attempt to mimicry anybody when recording this song, it's usually Buckley.
Leonard Cohen, 'Hallelujah'
Beirut's live version is somewhat particular because it transforms 'Hallelujah' into a ukulele ditty. It's a novel approach to the song, although if there was one thing Cohen was hoping to avoid when he wrote the tune, it was probably novelty.
Of the dozens of other versions of this song by dozens of other artists, the biggest surprise might be a group of four Norwegian singers -- Espen Lind, Askil Holm, Alejandro Fuentes, Kurt Nilson (a.k.a. the New Guitar Buddies) -- whose spine-tingling YouTube performance is the web channel's most-watched video for 'Hallelujah' with "more than 12 million served."
The New Guitar Buddies, 'Hallelujah'